Ghani Khan

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Ghani Khan,
Published in Khyber.ORG on Friday, September 16 2005 (

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Ghani Khan

Publishing Date: Friday, September 16 2005

Abdul Ghani Khan, a painter and sculptor of repute and, in the considered opinion of quite a few, arguably one of the three most eminent Pashto poets of the twentieth century, the other two being Amir Hamza Khan Shinwari (December 1907- 18th February, 1994) and Qalandar Moomand (1st September, 1930). He was born in January 1914 in Utmanzai, situated on the banks of the river Jindee-a branch of the Swat River as it debouches onto the plains of Hashtnaghar. It was then a reasonably sized village, now a bustling, populous town, in the Charsadda Tehsil of the Peshawar District of the North-West Frontier. Having been separated from the Punjab in 1901, the North-West Frontier was then a Chief-Commissionerate of British India. His father's name was Abdul Ghaffar Khan (1890 -20 January, 1988), a tall, spare, gaunt and bearded prominent land-owner of the Khwazikhel clan of the Mohammadzai tribe inhabiting Hashtnaghar. He later rose to international fame as the legendary Bacha Khan (King Khan) and Fakhr-e-Afghan (pride of the Afghans) on account of the Afghan Jirga and the Khudai Khidmatgar (Servants of God) Movement which he founded in September 1929, and also because of his relentless, non-violent struggle, as a leader of the All -India Congress Party, against British rule of the sub-Continent. His mother, Meharqanda, was a daughter of Yar Mohammad Khan of the Kinankhel clan of the Mohammadzai tribe of Razzar, a village adjacent to Utmanzai, whom his father married towards the end of 1912. She died during the post-First World War (1914-18) of influenza epidemic, when Ghani was five and Abdul Wali Khan (17 January 1917- ), his younger brother, was three years old and a sister, Sardaro, was just eight months. In 1919, Abdul Ghaffar Khan re-married, Nambata, a cousin of his first wife and the daughter of Sultan Mohammad Khan of Razzar. She bore him a daughter, Mehar Taj (25 May 1921- ), and a son, Abdul Ali Khan (20th August 1922-19 February 1997). After the death of Ghani's mother he was looked after by his paternal grandmother who, to his misfortune, also died in 1923. To make matters worse, Nambata, Ghani's stepmother, when on a visit to Jerusalem with her husband after the HaJJ" of May 1924, accidentally fell down the stairs of the apartment in which they were staying and died. Though still a young man-34 years of age- Abdul Ghaffar Khan did not marry again but devoted himself in real earnest to his life's mission of gaining freedom from British Rule.

As was customary in those days, Ghani Khan received his early education from an Imam (religious teacher) of one of the local mosques of Utmanzai. He was then sent to the National High School in Peshawar city, which was founded in 1895 by the Hindus of the Province. After studying there for a year he went to the Azad (Free) School in Utmanzai-founded in 1921 by his father with the assistance of the Anjuman-e-Islah-ul-Afaghina (Society for the Reformation of the Afghans). Here he obtained reasonable proficiency in Arabic and Urdu and passed the Punjab University Matriculation in 1927. Soon thereafter, he was sent to the Jamia Milli (National College), Delhi, a Muslim religious institution founded in 1920 for the study of the traditional disciplines of Islamic learning. On the outbreak of the insurgence against the liberal-minded and progressive Amanullah khan, Amir (1919-1929) of Afghanistan, at the instance of the conservative elements led by the Ulema (clergy), Ghani was recalled by his father from the Jamia to Utmanzai in 1928. He was to be a part of the medical mission proposed to be despatched to Afghanistan for the medical cover of Amanullah Khan's troops. It was to be led by Dr. Khan Sahib, (1882-1956), the elder brother of Abdul Ghaffar Khan, and was organized by the Afghan Red Crescent Society of the N-W.F.P.-the Committee established to collect subscriptions and donations to help the Afghan government. The Mission, however, was not allowed by the British Government in India to enter Afghanistan.

Disappointed at the role played by the Ulema (clergy) in the removal of Amanullah Khan from the throne of Kabul, Abdul Ghaffar Khan, who had originally intended to make an Alim (religious scholar) of Ghani, decided that he should receive a western education. He was consequently sent to England on 23rd July, 1929, at the tender age of fifteen. Here, ironically, he stayed with and was tuitored for a year and a half by a clergyman from a good English family. The choice of a priest was, in all likelihood, motivated by the lasting impression created on the mind of Abdul Ghaffar Khan by the selfless devotion of the missionaries to the cause of education and health of the Pukhtana during the late 19th and early 20th centuries. This was particularly so in the case of the Reverend E. F. E. Wigram, Headmaster of the Edwardes Memorial Mission School, Peshawar, in which Abdul Ghaffar Khan studied (1906-1909) from the sixth to the tenth class, and of Dr. Wigram, his brother, who looked after the Mission Hospital;

"[The example of] my teacher [Mr. Wigram] was largely responsible for the feelings generated in me of love for humanity, brotherhood, service of man-kind and love for my country".[He]... was the son of a well-known nobleman of London. I was very much influenced by him, a young man, who had given up all his enjoyments and comforts in London and had come here to serve the Indians although they did not belong to his nationality. He charged no money, nor accepted any remuneration for his work. His expenses were borne by his father.. ."

Not satisfied with his stay in England, arrangements were made through Shah Wali Khan, the then Ambassador of Afghanistan to the United Kingdom, for him to go to the USA for the study of sugar technology at the University of Southern Louisiana. On account of the turn that political events took in India in the post Round Table Conference (1931) period, in which Abdul Ghaffar Khan and other prominent Congress leaders were arrested for civil disobedience and their properties restrained, the family ran into financial difficulties. Ghani was compelled to return home prematurely without completing his course of studies for want of money-but not without acquiring western habits of dress and behaviour. To wean him, as it were, from what were considered to be the ill-effects of his exposure to western influences and ways of life, and inculcate in him a respect for the greatness of his own civilization and culture, he was sent by his father to Allahabad, U.P. Here he stayed for eight months with Jawaharlal Nehru (1889-1964) and occupied the rooms of Motilal Nehru in the family home - Anand Bhawan (Abode of Bliss). Jawaharlal's wife, Kamala, looked after him like a son and his daughter, Indira Priyadarshini (1917 -1984)-later Prime Minister of India (1966-77; 1980-84)-made him completely at home.

In February 1934, before his arrest, Jawaharlal arranged for him and Indira to study at Shantiniketan, a school established by Rabindranath Tagore (1861-1941)-Indian poet, philosopher, and Nobel aureate-on his estate in Bengal and inaugurated in 1921 as the Vishva Bharati University. Here, he was elected President of the Students Union with Indira as the Social Secretary. Along with journalism, he took to the study of sculpture and painting under Ram Kinkar, who taught sculpture, and Nandlal Bose, both famous and accomplished Indian artists, the latter being also the Head of the Art School. Indira, however, studied chemistry, history; English, Hindi, painting and drawing. His personal tuitor was Krishna Kirpalani. His sojourn in the West and his stay at Shantiniketan had a profound effect on him. He has summed this up in his own words as:

"My stay in the West left many imprints on my psyche. I was deeply impressed by their society, culture and politics. When I came back I had an inferiority complex about the backwardness of my country. It was in the Shantiniketan that I discovered myself and the past greatness of my own culture and civilization which has produced several men of versatile genius, who have been appreciated by historians and scholars of the West."

Or again when he says,

"Shantineketan was a whole new experience for me. From Hashtnagar I had gone to Europe. In Shantineketan, I got the opportunity to assimilate Asian philosophy, literature, and appreciate the performing and visual arts".

Unfortunately for him, Abdul Ghaffar Khan visited41 Shantiniketan. Seeing the liberal co- educational atmosphere and the pre-occupation of his son with sculpture and painting- activities which he did not at all consider to be of any practical use in the ongoing struggle against British Rule-he decided to withdraw Ghani in mid-course from the institution. Mahatma Gandhi's (1869-1948) intercession with Abdul Ghaffar Khan, at the instance of Nandlal Bose, to allow him to complete his studies proved in fructuous. Ghani's withdrawal in October 1934, was considered a great loss to the world of Indian art as, even during the short period that he was at Shantiniketan, Ghani had provided ample evidence of his exceptional talent. Indira was also withdrawn in Apri11935 in mid-course but for an altogether different reason -to accompany her ailing mother to Germany for treatment.

In December 1934 he went to Bombay where, at a friend's house, he met and instantaneously fell in love with Roshan (1907-1987), a Parsi lady of noble birth and the youngest daughter of Nawab Rustum Jang Faridoonji, of Hyderabad, Deccan. After six years of courtship she finally consented and married him on 24th November, 1939. A well-educated lady of great beauty, culture and sophistication, she brought almost six thousand books with her and was very supportive of Ghani's artistic inclinations. She bore him two daughters, Shandana (1940-) and Zareen (1944-), and a son, Faridoon (1951-1987), who pre-deceased him. Estranged from Ghani on development of differences over some intimate personal issues, she went to India and returned only when he promised to be have.

Faridoon married Nageen, daughter of Pir Muhammad Khan of Utmanzai, and had two sons, Bahram Khan (5 October 1975-) and Mashal Khan (26 October 1979-), and a daughter, Shahnai (18 May 1981 -).

From Bombay he went to Gola, near Sitapur, in the United Provinces and in 1936 took up service with the Gokarnath Sugar Mills, as in charge of the labour, where he later rose to be the Chief Chemist. In 1940 he left Gola and joined the Frontier Sugar Mills, Takht-i-Bhai, in the Mardan District of the N-W.F.P. as Technical Manager. In February 1943, on account of pressure from the Provincial Government, he resigned from the service of the Mills and went home to Utmanzai. Circumstances soon compelled him, much against his natural inclinations, to actively associate himself with electoral politics.

In august 1945, Lord Wavell, the Viceroy, decided that fresh elections to the central and provincial assemblies should be held in the winter. The Frontier Congress nominated Ghani to contest the Central Assembly seat. On 4 -5 December 1945 he contested the polls and was declared successful over Mohammad Akbar Qureshi (Khaksar) -the sole opposing joint candidate of the Muslim League, Khaksars, and Hindu Mahasabha. He was thus, at thirty-two years of age, elected to the Central Legislative Assembly of India, as its youngest member, against the sole general seat of the N-W.F. He distinguished himself as a parliamentarian by his command over the political and social issues of the time, by the substance and articulation of his speeches and, above all, by his oratory, sparkling as it was with his inimitable humour and freshness. He was greatly appreciated-the visitors' galleries being invariably filled to capacity when he spoke-and, despite his young age, was nominated as a member of eleven Advisory Committees of the Assembly. "On account of his exceptional talent, [he] very quickly acquired an acknowledged position of eminence and was considered to be amongst the top three orators of undivided India of the time. Though the youngest member, but when he spoke members of the Assembly would quickly hasten to their seats.

In 1946 he went to Stockholm, Sweden, as a member of the Indian delegation to the FAO conference. The same year he was nominated as a member of the Working Committee of the Frontier Congress Party and, the next year, presided over the All India Youth Conference held at Cawnpore (22-23 February 1947).

On 26/27 April, 1947 he founded the Zalmai Pukhtoon (Pukhtoon Youth), a militant ", organisation of Pukhtoon youth, carrying fire-arms, the aim of which was to protect the Khudai Khidmatgars (Servants of God) and members of the Congress Party from violence feared at the hands of the Muslim League. It had no connection as such with the Khudai Khidmatgars. The response of the Muslim League, a little later, was the organisation of the Ghazi Pukhtoon as its militant wing to cope with any situations that the Zalmai Pukhtoon might, in its turn, create.

On 22nd August 1947, the Congress Ministry of Dr. Khan Sahib was dismissed paving the way for the formation of the Muslim League Ministry under Abdul Qayyum Khan as the Chief Minister (22 August 1947-23 April 1953).

On 5th July 1948, at 1:00 a.m., Ghani was arrested under Section 40 FCR for alleged subversive activities and his agricultural land was taken over by the Provincial Government. He remained in prison for six years between 1948 and 1954. It was only because of Sardar Abdur Rashid, a friend and admirer, who succeeded Abdul Qayyum Khan as the Chief Minister of the Province, that the long period of his detention came to an end and his lands were restored to him.

"It is said that after his release someone observed to Ghani, 'You and Qazi [Qazi Attaullah, who was the Minister for Education in Dr. Khan Sahib's Cabinet and was also the father-in-law of Abdul Ali Khan, Ghani Khan's younger brother] really had a raw deal!' Ghani is reputed to have replied, 'Not at all! For the little back-bone and honour I exhibited my Creator more than adequately compensated me through two gifts--one when I was interned for a brief while and had my family with me, that year, after twelve years of marriage, a son was born to me; and the other is [my book of verses] De Panjray Chaghar: In exchange for these two gifts the surrender of six years of my life seems like the bargaining away of an hour. "

The Khudai Khidmatgar organisation was declared unlawful in mid-September 1948 and the Centre at Sardaryab (Markaz-e-A/a Khudai KhidmatgaranJ, built in 1942, was confiscated56 by the Provincial Government.

On the literary front Ghani's first poem appeared in December 1928 in the Pukhtoon, a monthly journal launched by his father in May 1928 as the organ of the Khudai Khidmatgar Movement for the promotion of the Pukhto language and political and social reform of the Pukhtana. This, in the words of K. B. Narang, "...became to the N.-W.F.P. what Gandhi's Harijan was to India58". It was printed at first in Rawalpindi, then in Amritsar and later at Peshawar. Its publication was suspended a number of times during the period 1927-1947 but was always revived. After Independence, however, it was made to cease publication permanently. He contributed to it (from 21 September 1928 to 17 May, 1947), both in prose and verse, a humorous column called gaday-waday (stuff and nonsense), on social, political, and moral issues, under the pen name of lewancy falsafi (the insane philosopher). He was a passionate devotee of freedom to whom the slavery of foreign domination was anathema. Every issue of the Pukhtoon carried on title tide page these touching lines of his memorable poem entitled 'Wasiat" (The Will)-imprinted indelibly on the minds and hearts of thousands of Khudai Khidmatgars, as they struggled against imperial might, and also engraved on a small monument erected on the Pakistan side of the India-Pakistan border near Wagha in the Punjab-

Though tombstones fine of bluish slate
Should ornament, adorn, my grave,
But I were to have died a slave,
Come, spit on and defile them!
If my body were not bathed,
In my blood, and sanctified,
Do not ever desecrate
Precincts of the mosque with it.
And if I were not to be
Into numerous pieces hacked
By the forces of the foe,
Mother, dear, how could you
Over me lament and cry?
I shall soon this land, deprived
Both of honour and of pride,
Into Paradise transform,
Or the ranks of Pukhtoon youth
Decimate, their streets denude.

Ghani, during the course of his long literary career wrote extensively on all manner of subjects. The Pathans, his first book published in English in 1947, before Independence, is a delightful sketch of the Pathans, their social customs and practices, their superstitions, their enmities, feuds, and their attitudes to life. This was followed in 1956 by the De Pan;ray Chaghar (Chirpings of the Cage) which contains poems written between 15 October 1950 and 27 October 1953 during the periods of his incarceration. In 1960-61 there appeared from Kabul, Palwashay (Beams of Light) containing a number of poems from the Pan;ray Chaghar along with new compositions. Panoos64 (Chandelier), containing selections from the earlier works and a number of new poems, was published in 1978. This was succeeded in 1985 by the Kullryat (Collected Works)-a compendium of his published verse. Ten years later, in 1995, came Latoon (Search), which contains all his poems published to date, less some reportedly desired by Ghani to be excluded, and a number of new, hitherto unpublished, ones.

In 1994 he published his sole effort in Urdu -'Khan Sahib'which is a small compilation of the views of a rustic, unlettered Pukhtoon on a number of issues as he inter-acts in 'tea-house' sessions with highly educated and sophisticated intellectuals -a professor of urdu, a budding artist, a professor of art, a medical doctor deeply interested in religion and a bank accountant who is a member of a religious political party. The issues on which Khan Sahib holds forth range from the ridiculous to the sublime and evoke characteristic responses from his interlocutors. Humour and satire of a most engaging kind are the dominant aspects of the book.

Ghani also wrote articles on different subjects in English, before independence, for the All- India Information and Publications Ltd., Bombay, which were translated into fourteen languages.

A substantial number of Pukhto poems-written on scraps of paper and lying in his personal effects-and some prose pieces in Pukhto, and English, have not yet been published. An example of the unpublished English prose is included in the notes under the tide of "Prayer6S". He also translated a few of his poems into English, three of which, under the tides of Silence, The Pukhtoon, and Fate, are contained in the notes66.

At the end of Palwashay there is a memorandum of some interest, which obviously relates to De Panjray Chaghar, recorded by Ghani in Haripur Jail and dated the 20th July, 1949, which states that:

"The book has come to an end but there are still innumerable verses which have not been included. I shall do something about them later. Life is a strange thing-the first verse of this book was composed in an ocean liner in the middle of the Indian Ocean and the last in a cell in Haripur Jail. Between the dates of composition of these two, whatever happiness, grief, longing, hope, fear, laughter and tears which I have experienced, are available in the pages of this book. Unfortunately, however, my tongue is not as powerful as my heart, and my expression is weaker than my perception. But, whatever its quality, it is before you. I have not tried to hide anything. On the contrary, I have made every effort to expose.

"This is a picture of myself-very incomplete, I admit; but whatever it contains, I can, with a clear conscience, proclaim is mine. This is a small gift distilled from my useless and purposeless life which I wish to present, for whatever it is worth, to my country and my people. Would that I within it could have made rivers of the beauty of language, understanding and perfection, flow brimful! But what can I do as I am not capable of anything more. Man is obliged to exert himself to the limits of his capability and no more. If within these thoughts there is enough beauty to enable them to live after I am gone, then I will say that I have, in actual fact, been able to discover the spring of eternal life. I have, now, brought them to life; and they will, then, bring me to life."

Although quite capable of writing in the traditional forms of Pukhto poetry, it is the Nazm, with its flexibility and freedom from the strict architectonic restrictions of the traditional forms, which suited his emancipated and prolific genius, which he excelled in and chose as the principal form of his poetic expression. His poetry is characterised by the great variety of subjects he wrote on; the purity and simplicity of the language he used; the almost boundless flight of his imagination; the philosophic content that he injected into most of his poems, even those with the most ordinary and prosaic of subjects; the intensity of his feeling; his uninhibited expression in language that is sincere, without any artificial embellishments, and comes from the depths of the heart; the absence of any kind of cant and hypocrisy; keen observation of nature and man; refreshingly new and captivating similes and metaphors; and, of course, his inimitable humour, satire and ability to laugh at himself-characteristics which when combined make his poetry so eminently individualistic and so very clearly distinguishes him from all other Pukhto poets, both modern and classical.

Some of the major themes on which he wrote are, Pukhtoon nationalism-freedom, love of the land and the people-the mysteries of life and death, fate, belief in the existence of God, the joys of communion, the woes of separation, love-both human and divine; nature in all its aspects-insects, birds, animals, trees and flowers; the khans (major land-owners); mullahs (the clergy) and, above all beauty which is the centerpiece of his feeling, thought and expression and was to him the ultimate proof of the existence of God. Writing to Abdur Rauf Benava he says,

"...I love your poetry except where you have turned into a mullah like Ulfat [a prominent Pukhto poet of Afghanistan]. I think the mission of a poet in life is quite different from that of a preacher- a mullah. Man is essentially an animal. He wants food, sex and comfort and nothing else. It is the duty of us poets to turn his face to those higher centres of his being where he might see the reflection of his own perfection-and the face of his eternal Beloved-Beauty. I think a poet must worship beauty-in thought, word and deed-and force man to turn his face from the rubbish heap of his appetites to his Garden of Eden. This cannot be done by preaching. I hate people preaching at me. If we praise beauty with a sincere love, it will come alive for a second in the dull eyes of the common-herd.

As for suffering and pain of life, I think that is the price we must pay for the gift of creating beauty. Every artist pays this dreadful price and a few are lucky enough to produce a drop of loveliness.. . You have to expose yourself to the pain of living in order to produce a work of art."

Or again when he says:

"Beauty is the truth, harmony, proportion, equilibrium. It embodies symmetry and rhythm. I believe that beauty is from God, and He is the most beautiful- AI-jamee/'.

He was a humanist, and man, in his view, occupied a very respectable position in the universe-to the extent that he considers him to be the meaning and soul of the universe.

"My poetry," he says, "is about humanism, and the search for truth. It's about self-realisation. I want to see my people educated and enlightened. A people with a vision and a strong sense of justice who can carve out a future for themselves, in harmony with nature".

The heart of man is to him the 'house of God' and, as a thinking individual, he seeks his God neither in the mosque nor in Mecca but, on the contrary, fmds Him in the depths of his own, heart. For him life is one continuous movement, incessant stumbling and regaining of the feet l in the struggle for attaining the objective one has set for oneself. Life without an objective has no meaning. Death is the manifestation of the kindness of the Creator for man. It is death, which unites man with God and is proof of God's love and mercy for mankind. He sees the world and life after death in his own philosophical context, not solely as the place in which to eat and, drink in the company of hooris, and nor does he seek in Heaven the pleasures of the earth; but, as he puts it, Heaven is, "a thought of love and a colour of ecstasy; the music of the anklet bells of surging youth; the delicacy of the longing of the petals of the flowers; the beauty of the beloved; the river of love and of majesty, every particle of which is a moon and every drop a world. A Pukhtoon. nationalist to the core, he loves the Pukhtan to distraction. This does not, however, prevent him from criticizing some of their morally indefensible customs and the, dishonourable conduct exhibited by some of them during the course of the struggle for freedom. : But those who have laid down their lives for it, he acknowledges with great love, admiration and gratitude. Though highly critical of the mullahs and of religious obscurantism, he was, at the same time, a muslim -though far from regular in the observance of formal prayer -with a firm belief in the existence of God and of the hereafter.

No comprehensive critical appreciation of his poetry has as yet been undertaken although a number of appraisals of considerable merit have been made by scholars and critics. Excerpts l from some of these are given in the ensuing paragraphs.

In introducing Ghani, as if that were, in the author's words, necessary, Master Abdul Karim in his foreword to "De Panjray Chaghar" states that:

"To my mind, in Pukhtoonkhwa today, Ghani is a poet with an imagination that is boundless, and a path all his own. As a poet his greatness lies in just this that he complies with the dictates of his own heart and does not listen to others. The reins of that ecstatic heart of his are always held in his own hands. He has never imitated anyone, and nor will he ever do so. He is a poet; and for a poet to blindly imitate someone is death, and to rebel is life. Ghani's poetry can be divided into three periods-each being distinct and more enjoyable than the others. The first relates to his youth, in which his imagination had not yet achieved the capacity to attain the heights he scaled later. In this period Ghani, like a horse, which is hard of mouth, takes the bit between its teeth and, with loose reins, gallops unrestrained--oblivious of the terrain, seeing neither the ditches nor the fences; an ecstasy which has no form and no abode; an inebriation which has no majesty or grandeur. The second period relates to the time when his pilgrimage to Europe and America had extended his understanding and life's bitter experiences had singed his breast. In this period one finds depth and vastness in his imagination. Here too, he is astride the steed of fancy, but the reins are now firmly held. He is a voice which has both feeling and music; an ecstasy which has the intoxication of drooping eyes. In this period Ghani has carved out for himself his own particular path and station in the domain of poetry. It is said that Ghalib and Tagore were walking together down a path when they passed by Ghani. They both paused, looked at each other and exchanged meaningful glances. That is the third period of Ghani's poetry in which the ecstasy of Khayyam was added to the uninhibited expression of Ghalib and the colours of Tagore and the amalgam was named De Pan;'ay Chaghar (Chirpings of the Cage). However, one thing must be kept in mind. Ghani has strung together the three periods on the same string-which, in the language of poetry, is called satire and humour-and in this lies the attraction and beauty of his poetry. Whenever, on account of lack of understanding, the reason of the masses is veiled, a poet dons the robes of a teacher and with the beams of his knowledge and understanding, rends them apart. In doing so he approaches the task sometimes from the direction of the wind and sometimes from that of the rain; subjects one side [of the veils] to blows from the staff of satire and the other to those from that of humour. Finally people get to be ashamed of themselves and become the agents of their own enlightenment. The today waday (Stuff and Nonsense) of the Journal Pukhtoon, is that potent melange of Ghani's which is more valuable than thousands of Samay Damay (Sense and Wisdom) of others."

According to Sulaiman Laiq, the then Minister for Tribes and Nationalities of the Afghan government, in his foreword to the Kullyat of Ghani:

"The language of Ghani's criticism is forthright. He, as a romantic, realist, is a votary of beauty and love. But in everything, everywhere and at all times, he does not forget that man is a denizen of the earth and, despite all his vices and virtues, he is at the centre-stage of his [Ghani's] poetry and provides, ...from the cradle of his pleasure and pain, inspiration for Ghani's poetry."

Sadiqullah Orakzai, in his "The creator of Panoos and his Art," which is the introduction to Ghani Khan's Panoos, observes that:

"Though Ghani is old in age, his heart is still young, pure and full of love like that of a child. Ebullient and uninhibited, it is totally free from the restrictions that customs impose. Whatever is in his heart, gets to his lips; and whatever his heart desires, he does; but each action, each word, free from hypocrisy and egotism, is dipped in the colour of the love for life and humanity. Innocence is the motivating force behind each of his actions. All this has conferred on Ghani's personality its individuality and elevated station. Just like Ghani's personality has an individuality and status peculiarly its own, so has his poetry which, to my mind, very few will be able to attain. Just as a house and hujra in a village or in the country is made from the mud and wood of the village by the local masons and carpenters, so it is with Ghani's poetry- fashioned from the adobe of the village and its society."

Dr. Rajwali Shah Khattak, is of the view that:

"In the development of his art, Ghani has had recourse to the pure and unadulterated passion with which he loves his land. He was a free spirit-never over-awed or overcome by anything except, of course, by his love; the love which he has showered on everything of beauty in the universe, the pre-eminent symbol of which to him is the form of Pukhtoon beauty. When the different moods of his love gave expression to this symbol, it became a verse; when required to stand before his vision, it took the form of a painting; and when three dimensional form was desired, it became pieces of sculpture. This was his art; but not that simple either so as not to merit anything more than this to be said about it. Ghani Khan had in his own life time become a legend; and if an ordinary person were to be asked, he would certainly testify to his fame. For practical purposes, however, very little effort has gone into understanding him. He is basically a poet of love and beauty. In his aesthetics, more often than not, the hedonistic aspect is most prominent; but he never allows this to get to the point where the pleasure of the moment becomes his sole purpose. His search is the search for lasting Beauty. This is the basis of his art."

Dr. Syed Chiragh Hussain Shah is of the opinion that:

"In the poetry of Ghani, where on the one side there is ecstasy and happiness, on the other there is no dearth of feeling and pain; the 'mad philosophy' which permeates his poetry has created a most enjoyable balance between the two moods. In his poetry the revolutionary message of Khushal Khan; the mysticism of Rehman Baba; the ambiguity of Mirza Khan Ansari and the romanticism of Ali Khan, are all mixed together, with freedom of thought and of fancy and the best possible satire and humour being added qualities. He has made good use of political similes and has an incisive intellect and a keenly observant eye."

Begum Nasim Wali Khan feels that:

"The colour of each facet and angle of Ghani Khan's colourful life has so many hues that they are beyond enumeration--even the rainbow would be surprised at seeing them. They surprise poets and literatures no less than the world at large. Ghani called himself the 'mad philosopher'; but his 'madness' was in actual fact a symbol of wisdom. His thought was an illuminating ray of light; and he had but one thought, one obsession-to gather all the colours possible."

Referring to Ghani in his overview of Pukhto literature, Ajmal Khattak comments that:

".Though Abdul Ghani Khan has expressed the emotions of love and affection in the form of verse and, under the influence of nationalistic passion, has also written exceptionally fine poems, but in Pukhto literature he is known as the 'mad philosopher'; and this because he, using this pen-name, has written such outstanding humorous and satirical poems, that when anybody gets to read the Journal Pukhtoon, he straight away tries to locate the name and writings of the 'mad philosopher.' "

He wrote poetry instinctively in moments of intense inspiration. In one of his letters to a friend, Naeem Ahmad Rathore, he says,

"I have been passing through a period of change or transition in my thoughts and way of thinking and, naturally, am bothered, frustrated and worried. I am re-reading my own poems and understand now, intellectually, most of the things that I wrote instinctively without a clear mental appreciation of their meaning. But then I am writing other things instinctively that I do not quite clearly understand. Yet I wonder whether I would live long enough to know some of them more intimately. I am being silly-emphatic agreement from Sahibzada Sahib"

In painting, as in poetry, he imitated no one but was inspired by the impressionists Monet, monet and Van Gogh, with a particular liking for the colours of Gaugin. He evolved a style all his own-which does not strictly fall within the defIning characteristics of any of the known, schools-with almost exclusive focus on renderings of the human face. His chosen medium was pastels although he wielded the paint brush, pencil and charcoal just as effectively. Except for the brief stint at the Shantiniketan under Ram Kinkar and Nandlal Bose, he had no formal training in art and whatever he achieved was the outcome of sheer talent. He chose faces as the main subject of his art because of the infinite possibilities they offer for the portrayal of the entire range of human feelings and emotions in all their variety.

"I consider the human face to be the most significant. A person's thoughts, ambitions, his character, are all reflected on it. I work from memory, I have never had people modeling for me"

He preferred pastels over all other modes as the principal medium because of their ability to give almost instantaneous shape to his very intense but short-lived inspiration.

"My method of working is quite erratic. I get an idea, I get the charcoal from the kitchen, or Ichildren's pencils or dry pastels, and sketch it then and there. If it's not done in one go, my mood changes, and I start writing instead".

His portraits-whether of living individuals, historical personages, figures from mythology or imaginary characters-all have a dimension which goes well beyond mere visual resemblance to the subjects to include a projection of their inner feelings and personality. "I try and bring out the most predominant characteristic in their personality". His subjects, where they are not actual portraits of somebody, are, quite frequendy, on paper and in colour, what Gandharan sculpture was in stone and terra-cotta with, of course, a major difference-they all exude warmth and great depth of emotions and feelings. Though the colours used vary, depending upon his mood and the aspects of the personality of the subjects that he wished to portray, yet the darker and more somber shades predominate. Writing about Ghani's art, Sabah Hussain says:

"He executes his images with dry crayons, working quickly and deftly, with nervous strokes. Complementary colours are applied side by side, for intensity and luminosity. Tiny strokes of paint on dark and buff surfaces accentuate the bone structure here and create a highlight there. Vibrant colours form a free verse on close observation, dissolving into an image at a distance.

At rimes he combines crayons with water colours, creating tonal depths and textures. His self-portrait in gouache and crayons, is dramatic in conception. He has reduced the structures to a bare minimum. Whites create highlight emphasizing the harshness and conflict behind the mask. A well-modulated mouth is the only sensuous feature. It is a rare portraiture for in most of his works, eyes are the prominent aspect."

His home Dar-ul-Aman (the abode of peace) at Mohammad Narai, a village in the vicinity of Utmanzai, is a veritable treasure trove of art with its walls covered by portraits ranging from those of his father, members of the family, friends and relatives, to those of poets and seers of the past, characters from Hindu mythology, and some very exceptional 'self portraits'. Although a number of exhibitions of his art were held over the years both at Peshawar and Lahore, he did not sell any paintings. True to his nature and name he liberally gifted his work to those who appreciated it. His brothers, Abdul Wali Khan and Abdul Ali Khan have large collections, whereas his friend, Umar Farooq Sahibzada, also had a significant number of his paintings though he was selective about accepting what he was offered.

For his contributions to Pukhto literature and painting, the President of Pakistan, General Muhammad Zia-ul-Haq, conferred on him the prestigious award of Sitara-e-Imtiaz (23 March 1980).

Afflicted by arthritis of the knee-joints his movement had been severely restricted for some time. To make matters worse, on the 1st of June, 1987, he fell in the verandah of his house and broke his leg. Although successfully operated upon, he never fully recovered but gradually grew weaker. His arthritis and a lung ailment compounded his physical problem and confined him to a wheel chair for the remaining years of his life. He had taken to opium to alleviate the pain in his knees. The dosage of this he now more than doubled -an unfortunate development as the excessive intake, though stilling the pain, dulled the senses and suppressed his creativity. A few years before his death, however, he mustered enough will-power to reduce the intake and regain control over his faculties. Posterity is the richer by a number of excellent poems which date to 1 this period.

On 6th October 1987 his son Faridoon died of a liver ailment causing him great anguish. On 22nd December 1987, his beloved wife and companion of over four and a half decades, Roshan, died of heart-failure in the Bolton Block of the Lady Reading Hospital, Peshawar, leaving him disconsolate and lonelier than ever. The void thus created was filled to an extent by his grand- children, who became for him, in his old age, a source of great comfort, assurance and joy. Though this was so, to discerning friends he was never the same man.

He died on 15th March 1996 in the Bolton Block of the Lady Reading Hospital, Peshawar and was buried the next day, as desired by him, by the side of his mother, in his ancestral graveyard outside Utmanzai. His funeral attracted a large concourse, representative of all sections of society, from all over the N-W.F.P., Tribal Areas, Baluchistan, and Afghanistan. His death was widely mourned as the passing away of a great poet, painter, sculptor and a leader who was for J many years, in the N-W.F..P, at the forefront of the struggle for Independence. against British Rule. Both the then President, Farooq Ahmad Khan Leghan, and the Pnme Minister, Benazir Bhutto, visited Hashtnaghar and condoled his death with his brothers, Abdul Wali Khan and Abdul Ali Khan.

Let death overtake me
Whenever it will;
It will find me prepared,
With a flower in hand,
Or mounted upon
A snorting steed;
Or a gun in hand,
Or quill and ink;
And drowned in laughter
The cares of the world;
Whatever's in store,
Is enough, no more!
Let death overtake me
Whenever it will.

In recognition of his outstanding achievements, the Government of the N-W.F.P Province have built a public library and park as a memorial to him on about eight acres of land and named it as Ghani Derai (the mound of Ghani). The site is an historical mound very near his home, Dar- ul-Aman, and within the confines of his ancestral village Utmanzai, on the main highway from Razzar to Takht-i-Bhai.


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Ghani Khan,
Published in Khyber.ORG on Friday, September 16 2005 (